Looking back at a lifetime of travel and then 5 years working within the travel industry itself, I’ve enjoyed many different travel styles. From solo jaunts to cruises and everything in between, but before my recent trip to Spain with luxury tour provider Abercrombie & Kent, I had only been on one group tour before. That was in Egypt two years ago and I enjoyed it, learning a lot about my fellow participants and myself in the process. Although I’ve traveled with Abercrombie & Kent before, that was a private tour, so it was with excitement that I looked forward to joining one of their Boutique Journeys through southern Spain. I’m writing a more comprehensive review of the experience, but today I thought I’d take a moment to share some of my initial takeaways, observations from traveling with one of the best tour providers in the world.
For the last several years, I try to incorporate great walking tours into my travels. I found that I just wasn’t learning enough from my travel experiences by relying solely on guidebooks or the like. One of the many great features of a tour experience like the one I had in Spain was that those expert guides are built into the experience. The way that Abercrombie & Kent structured my Spain tour was to have one Resident Tour Director who was in charge of everything and who was with us the entire trip. Her job duties were many, but ranged from helping us find great restaurants in the local neighborhoods to acting as interpreter to being a general go-to person in the country. Then, at each stop along the way, a local guide was brought in to provide even more in-depth knowledge of the area and for them to show us around their town. It was a great combination and I quickly appreciated the fact that I was learning more than I had on any trip in a very long time. Traveling with A&K also took the guesswork out of finding fantastic local tours; those were already built into our itinerary.
Ease of Travel
The way I want to travel varies depending on my mood. Sometimes I want nothing more than to be left alone, guessing my way around new cities. Other times though a little ease of travel and convenience is a great luxury as well. I mix up how I travel throughout the year; I think it’s a smart way to travel to ensure that your travel experiences are a little more well rounded. Abercrombie & Kent provides this ease of travel in a manner that surely must be the best in the world. Little touches, like never having to move my bags personally, to handing out printed plane/train tickets as the group entered the points of departure. Every little detail was thought of and instead of detracting from the travel experience, it accentuated it. Instead of having to stress over minor details that don’t mean a lot, I was able to spend more of my time actually enjoying the trip, the destination and the overall experience.
Learning from Others
One of the important takeaways from my first tour experience in Egypt was how surprised I was at what traveling with others can do for one’s travel experience. In Spain, I joined an Abercrombie & Kent Connections Boutique Group Journey, a slightly different concept from their other tours. Connections Journeys are Boutique Group trips that focus on the destination and, almost more importantly, the local people and culture. They’re meant to be immersive trips, led by individuals who call the destinations home and who understand the cities and towns better than almost anyone else. Using carefully crafted itineraries, small one-of-a-kind hotels and special immersive experiences, the goal of Connections is not to just see new places, but to live them. That also means smaller group sizes and for my Spain experience, there were 17 of us for the duration. I’ve long said that it doesn’t matter the ages or backgrounds of the people who travel with you, be it on a cruise ship or tour. The fact is that you all made the same travel decision, which means you have similar interests and have similar expectations from the travel experience. Not only did I make new friends during the week, but we all learned from each other along the way. There is power in discovering a new destination through the eyes of someone else. They pick up on different aspects of the city, which in turn makes your own experience that much more interesting and complete.
Fantastic to Maximize Time
I started this site as a professional working a 9-5 job. That meant my posts and trips had to be realistic. I couldn’t set off for two months, otherwise I wouldn’t have a job. Even though this is my career now, I still keep that same philosophy in mind. Part of it is to provide realistic content, but I also don’t like to be away from home for too long at a time. That means I have to make the most out of every trip, to maximize my precious time and I couldn’t have picked a better way to do that in Spain than with Abercrombie & Kent. Thanks to their travel experience and the itinerary itself, there wasn’t a wasted moment during the journey through Spain. That’s not to say it was too busy, it wasn’t, and we enjoyed more than enough time on our own to explore in our own personal ways. What I mean is that the trip was efficient, made great use of the time allotted and ensured that we experienced as much of the local communities as possible. Time is our most precious commodity, and this is one of the best ways to ensure it’s not squandered.
I have a lot more to say about my tour with Abercrombie & Kent as well as my time spent gallivanting around Spain, but I wanted to pen this first to help put into context what will follow and to share why I think these boutique journeys are such a fantastic concept.